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Featured Article: Cuneiform script

Sumerian inscription in monumental archaic style, c. twenty-sixth century B.C.E.
The cuneiform script (kjuːˈniːəfɔrm) is the earliest known form of written expression. As such, those writings that remain are communications from peoples long gone from the earth. Created by the Sumerians in approximately 3000 B.C.E., cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs. Over time, the pictorial representations became simplified and more abstract. Cuneiforms were inscribed on clay tablets, on which symbols were drawn with a blunt reed for a stylus. The impressions left by the stylus were wedge shaped, thus giving rise to the name cuneiform ("wedge shaped").

The Sumerian script was adapted for the writing of the Akkadian, Elamite, Hittite (and Luwian), Hurrian (and Urartian) languages, and it inspired the Old Persian and Ugaritic national alphabets. Although it then disappeared when these cultures faded and new scripts, such as the Phoenician alphabet developed, numerous clay tablets, stelae (such as those upon which the Code of Hammurabi is written), and even the sides of cliffs (such as those containing the Behistun inscription) with cuneiform writings remained. Discovered by archaeologists and deciphered by the efforts of a series of linguists, cuneiform inscriptions provide valuable insights into cultures of the past.